Gimme some sugar…or not.
The Sweet Deception
By Dr. Michelle Lim, D.C.
As I was running through patient history, I routinely asked a new patient some standard questions about her diet. Defensely, she responded, “Well, I have lost some weight.”
I tell her I would just like to know what her diet consists of, since she had some symptoms that raised red flags. She gave me the perfect answer that every Doctor wants to hear: “I eat vegetables, fruits, salads….”
“Any soda?” I ask.
“No, no soda for me… Only light. The light stuff….Diet.”
Alarmed, my inner geek comes out and I begin to lecture her on how bad soda is and how even worse diet soda is for you.
So she looks at me and goes, “Well, I’m diabetic, what am I supposed to drink? I can’t drink normal soda.”
Let’s read that again: I AM DIABETIC. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DRINK?
A LITTLE LOVE
As a health practitioner, I take for granted my vast knowledge of nutrition and wellness. It was not until today that it occurred to me that this is far from common sense for a lot of people. It is my job to educate them and this is why I love what I do.
For the love of my patients, I decided to write a blog about the dangers and misconceptions of sugar. From sucralose to aspartame to high fructose corn syrup, I will discuss this with you.
Sugar in itself is an inflammatory substance that has been linked to numerous conditions. It delays the healing process and assaults the immune system.
Sugar in any form causes obesity and disease when consumed in large amounts, but not all sugar is equal.
Although present in nature, it is best to eat real, raw, organic fruit to satisfy a sweet craving rather than reaching for candy, ice cream, cookies, or some other processed form of dessert that is enriched with the fake stuff. You’d also be surprised by how many foods/meals/entrees that aren’t meant to be dessert contain mass doses of sugar.
In 1957, Dr. William Coda Martin defined sugar as “Medically: any substance applied to the body, ingested or developed within the body, which causes or may cause disease. Physically: Any substance which inhibits the activity of a catalyst which is a minor substance, chemical or enzyme that activates a reaction.”
He then went on to classify Refined Sugar as a “poison” because it is depleted of its life force, vitamins and minerals.
According to Dr. Edward Group, in his book, The Green Body Cleanse: Sugar ingested daily produces a continuously altered internal pH, making the body more acidic. More minerals are drawn from deep within the body in an attempt to restore a proper balance. For example, to protect the blood, calcium is taken from the bones and teeth in such great amounts that decay and weakening of the bones begins and this leads to osteoarthritis. Consumption of refined sugar can damage the digestive tract and eventually affect every organ in the body.
Refined sugar may appear on labels as:
High fructose corn syrup
Artificial sweeteners are food additives that mimic the flavor of sugar but contain no useful energy.
In the U.S., 5 sugar substitutes are approved for consumer use:
3. Acesulfame potassium
4. Sucralose- “Splenda” / A non-caloric, white crystalline power that tastes like sugar but is about six hundred times sweeter.
5. Aspartame– “Equal” “Nutrasweet” / In products that are marketed as “Diet”
Since Sucralose and Aspartame are the most widespread, commonly used artificial sweeteners, we will focus on these two.
Aspartame is found in products that include the word “diet”. It is found in carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, yogurt, pudding, tabletop sweeteners (in restaurants), chewing gum, frozen confections, Altoids, and even vitamins and cough drops.
In “The Aspartame Scandal”, Betty Martini reports, “The FDA has received more than 10,000 consumer complaints on this Nutra poison. That’s 80% of all complaints about food additives, yet they remain comatose and have done nothing to alert the American consumer who assumes, since its so highly advertised, that is must be as safe as mother’s milk.”
Aspartame has been investigated as a possible cause of brain tumors, mental retardation, birth defects, epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, and Diabetes.
After being inside the body for 20 minutes, Aspartame begins breaking down from its original compound into methanol, formaldehyde (a Class-A carcinogen used to embalm corpses) and formic acid (ant venom).
Aspartame has also been linked to at least 92 documented side effects, including:
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
Heart palpitations or seizures
Sucralose is found in a variety of products including beverages and baking goods.
Reasons to Avoid Sucralose:
It is produced by chlorinating sucrose, which involves chemically changing the structure of the sugar molecules by substituting three chlorine atoms for three hydroxyl groups. The chemical changes caused by chlorination raises concerns because chlorine is a known carcinogen.
Pre-FDA-approved research indicates the potential toxicity of sucralose, but the FDA approved it anyway.
No independent, controlled, or long-term human studies exist for sucralose
Neither federal regulators nor consumer watch groups monitor the safety of sucralose.
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS)
High fructose corn syrup is a high-calorie sweetener found in most processed and store bought foods. HFCS is used to produce lost cost foods and to maximize shelf life. It is not natural and not a naturally occurring substance.
Dr. Mark Hyman explained:
“Some basic biochemistry will help you understand this. Regular cane sugar (sucrose) is made of two-sugar molecules bound tightly together– glucose and fructose in equal amounts. The enzymes in your digestive tract must break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the body.
HFCS also consists of glucose and fructose, not in a 50-50 ratio, but a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Fructose is sweeter than glucose. And HFCS is cheaper than sugar because of the government farm bill corn subsidies. Products with HFCS are sweeter and cheaper than products made with cane sugar. This allowed for the average soda size to balloon from 8 ounces to 20 ounces with little financial costs to manufacturers but great human costs of increased obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease.
Now back to biochemistry. Since there is there is no chemical bond between them, no digestion is required so they are more rapidly absorbed into your blood stream. Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called “fatty liver” which affects 70 million people.
The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin–our body’s major fat storage hormone. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more.
But there was one more thing I learned during lunch with Dr. Bruce Ames. Research done by his group at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that free fructose from HFCS requires more energy to be absorbed by the gut and soaks up two phosphorous molecules from ATP (our body’s energy source).
This depletes the energy fuel source, or ATP, in our gut required to maintain the integrity of our intestinal lining. Little “tight junctions” cement each intestinal cell together preventing food and bacteria from “leaking” across the intestinal membrane and triggering an immune reaction and body wide inflammation.
High doses of free fructose have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining allowing nasty byproducts of toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins to enter your blood stream and trigger the inflammation that we know is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and accelerated aging. Naturally occurring fructose in fruit is part of a complex of nutrients and fiber that doesn’t exhibit the same biological effects as the free high fructose doses found in “corn sugar”.” (Dr. Mark Hyman)
My goal in writing this blog was to show you two things:
A) Sugar in high consumption is toxic.
B) Not all sugar is created equal.
There’s a lot of misleading information out there and this can be confusing for someone who is on a diet or has intentions of health. Like my diabetic patient told me, “No one’s ever told me that…..I didn’t know.”
With clever marketing, big corporations will try to deceive you into thinking that their cola or product is a healthier alternative, but that’s far from the truth. Remember, health can’t be bought from any one particular product. It is a lifestyle composed of healthy choices. Be weary of anything that promotes “diet” and “weight loss”, especially if it has ingredients that you can’t pronounce or sounds like a chemical (chances are it is). If it’s not found in nature, it’s poison.
Here are some basic guidelines to make sweeter, healthier choices:
Stay away from sugar. Limit all sugar consumption to no more than 6 teaspoons per day for women, and nine teaspoons for men.
Avoid excessive alcohol, as this is converted by your body into simple sugars. Alcohol is an endocrine disruptor. It slows down your metabolism and acts like HFCS in the body.
Stay away from anything processed, packaged, canned, or in a box. Or anything you would find at a 7/11 for that matter. Gravitate towards fresh vegetables and lean meats. Cook everything in a pan or oven. Avoid foods that are “microwaveable” or “ready to eat.”
Avoid “Vitamin Water”, energy drinks or anything marketed as “recovery workout drinks.” Sugar consumed before and after a workout only results in insulin spiking and crashing as well as reduced athletic performance. Realistically, the average person doesn’t work out long enough to be dehydrated or depleted of nutrients. Unless you are losing more than a quart of water in sweat in 30-45 minutes of sustained intensity, you don’t need a “sports drink”.
If you crave something sweet, reach for fresh fruits labelled “organic.”
Avoid fruit juice. Make your own juice, squeezing an orange or blending fruit together without adding any sweetener. (I love the sweetness provided by an over-ripen, almost-brown banana.)
If you must add sugar to a food or beverage, honey or agave is a good option (in moderation).
In terms of sugar packets, if you really need to, pure cane sugar or the brown “sugar in the raw” is the best option (in moderation). Stay away from the colored packets!
Stevia is also a great alternative.
If you have insulin sensitivity issues, which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or extra weight, you should avoid sweeteners altogether, including Stevia, as they all can decrease your sensitivity to insulin.
*When you stabilize your blood sugars, the less sugar you’ll crave. For help optimizing your health and stabilizing your blood sugars, call Dr. Lim for an appointment.
1. Collison, KS, MZ Zaidi, SM Saleh, and B Andres. “Gender Dimorphism in Aspartame-Induced Impairment of Spatial Cognition and Insulin Sensitivity.” PLoS ONE 10 (2013): 31570. Print.
2. Ferland, Annie, Patrice Brassard, and Paul Porrier. “Is Aspartame Really Safer in Reducing the Risk of Hypoglycemia During Exercise in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes?.” American Diabetes Association 30 (2007): n. pag. Diabetes Care. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
3. “Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings.” Yale Journal Of Biology and Medicine 83 (2010): 101-108. Print.
4. Group, Edward. The Green Body Cleanse. Houston: Second Printing, 2010. Print.
5. Hyman, Mark. “5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You.” Dr Mark Hyman. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2014. <http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/05/13/5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you/>.